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Attorney General: Florida Celebrates 100 Years of Sunshine

LawFuel.com – 1 September, 2009 – TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today recognized the 100th anniversary of Florida’s public records laws, noting the first public records law was enacted in August 1909. The law declared that all state, county and municipal records be open for a personal inspection of any citizen of Florida. An 1975 amendment to this statute removed the citizenship requirement.

“Florida has a proud tradition of leading the nation in open government
and transparency, which are the keys to building and maintaining public
trust in the institutions of government,” said Attorney General McCollum.
“I am honored to help promote and protect that access, a responsibility
which will continue to be a priority of my administration.”

In the century since Florida’s first public records law was enacted, a
significant body of statutory and judicial law developed that greatly
enhanced the original law. The state’s Public Records Act, which is
contained within chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, was first enacted in 1967. In the general election of 1992, Florida’s tradition of public
access was increased further when Floridians passed a constitutional
amendment guaranteeing public access to the records of all three branches
of state government.

“Holding government accountable is fundamental to a democratic society,
and Florida’s public records law, one of the best and oldest in the
nation, is a source of pride for each and every one of us,” said Barbara
Petersen, President of the First Amendment Foundation.

The anniversary coincides with a case in Leon County Circuit Court in
which the Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus brief in favor of
openness and transparency and in support of media access to documents made and received in connection with official business at Florida State
University. Prior to the action being filed, Attorney General McCollum
wrote a letter to the president of the National Collegiate Athletic
Association urging him to release certain records made available to FSU in compliance with Florida law. Numerous media organizations, the First
Amendment Foundation and the Florida Press Association argued the
documents were public record and should have been made available upon
request, and a judge recently ruled in their favor.

Educating local governments about Sunshine law requirements is a
significant priority of the Attorney General’s Office. Earlier this year,
Attorney General McCollum unveiled a series of online videos designed to
provide training and information to local governments, boards and
associations and law enforcement agencies on the requirements of Florida’s Sunshine and public records laws, including meeting notice requirements, rules for assessing fees and costs when responding to records requests, and exemption and redaction guidelines. The free training videos were made available through a new website, http://www.myfloridasunshine.com, launched by the Attorney General which also includes a free, downloadable copy of the Government in the Sunshine Manual, as well and training videos and resources for consumers, government entities, and the media.

We hear it again and again and again: Yes, it’s all fine and good for the Ted Olsons, Walter Dellingers and Andy Freys — the heavyweights of the Supreme Court bar — to try to bring every member of the court to his side in a case. But all too often — especially on the politically charged cases — we all know where the energy’s really being focused: on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote often tips the balance.

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